Stories » Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha gets ★★★★★ from The Telegraph's 'best of list'

Top 10 for Aug

Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha gets ★★★★★ from The Telegraph's 'best of list'

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Here are the best jazz albums of 2016 for now. This list will be regularly updated with picks from jazz critic Ivan Hewett and culture editor Martin Chilton. 

SNARKY PUPPY: CULCHA VULCHA (DECCA)

Lend a casual ear to Snarky Puppy's first studio album in eight years, and you might find its high-production gloss just too slick. Pay attention, and you'll discover just how much artfulness lies under those catchy hooks. True jazz improvisation is almost absent, but one doesn't miss it. There's a wonderful sense of freedom which is partly to do with the rhythmic sassiness.  It's shown off with especial clarity in Tarova, where Bobby Sparks's keyboard floats just out of reach of the driving bass beneath.

Everywhere the album mingles musical references with consummate skill, a Bollywood beat here, a bit of Motown funkiness there. On Grown Folks we veer close to Highlife, before the muted trumpet of Mike ‘Maz' Maher pushes it aside, to be joined before long by the full brass section.  The bubble-gum lightness of certain numbers is offset by the Weather Report atmospherics and dark Steely Dan-ish harmonies of others. And the way one thing follows another is always a surprise. You surf the music, not knowing quite where each number will lead, but enjoying each irresistible moment. It teases and satisfies at once, which is why, unless you're allergic to Snarky Puppy's special charm, you'll want to play this album over and over.  ★★★★★ IHa

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